I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Political Science Department at Stanford University. I am also a member of the Stanford Civics Initiative. I have been a Lecturer and a Postdoctoral Associate in Economics at New York University--Abu Dhabi and a Visiting Scholar at the University of Bordeaux. I received my Ph.D. in Economics from Los Andes University. My work focuses on the intersection between social networks and economic history.
My geographical areas of specialty are Latin America and the Middle East.
I regularly contribute to different news outlets. Currently, I am a Forbes Magazine op-ed columnist.
I am also one of the hosts of the New Books in Economic and Business History podcast.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
New York University--Abu Dhabi
University of Bordeaux
Visiting Research Fellow
Los Andes University
Los Andes University
2013 - 2018
Ph.D. in Economics (with honors)
Committee: Andrés Álvarez, Tomás Rodríguez, Fabio Sanchez, and Matthew O. Jackson
Visiting Student Researcher
Los Andes University
M.A. in Economics
University of Antioquia
B.A. in Economics (with honors)
Research in Progress
This paper offers a theoretical framework to understand the coevolution of social interactions and long-term economic growth. It begins by considering that most traditional societies did not have educational markets. Thus, access to the required knowledge for transiting to a modern economy had to be transmitted through social interactions, in particular, through the interaction between heterogeneous groups of people–i.e. distant interactions. Once immersed in a modern economy, the productive system should have increased the demand for knowledge, promoting more distant interactions. Simultaneously, the emergence of distant interactions should have affected the connectivity of society, reducing its heterogeneity, making cheaper posterior interactions but reducing their profitability. Moreover, social interactions competed and benefited from other non-market activities, child rearing specifically. The model arrives at four basic predictions. First, modern economic growth brings a more cohesive society. Second, modern economic growth brings long-term reductions in fertility with potential short-term increases. Third, initial barriers to social interactions could explain the timing of modern economic growth arrival. Fourth, the timing of modern economic growth arrival could explain current output levels. I exploit different data sources to offer evidence in support of these predictions.
This paper explores the relationship between social networks and entrepreneurship by constructing a dynamic social network from archival records. The network corresponds to the elite of a society in transition to modernity, late 19th- and early 20th-century Antioquia (Colombia). I exploit the timing of unexpected deaths as a source of exogenous variation of individuals' network position. I find that individuals better connected at a global level (i.e. more important as bridges in the entire network) were more involved in entrepreneurship. However, I do not find individuals better locally connected (i.e. with a denser immediate network) to be more involved in entrepreneurship. I provide quantitative evidence on the performance of the firms and narratives on the behavior of the entrepreneurs who created them to indicate that these results can be explained by the requirement of complementary resources that entrepreneurship had. These resources were spread in society and markets worked poorly enough to canalize them to entrepreneurs. Thus, networks operated as substitutes for markets in the acquisition of resources. In particular, individuals with network positions that favored the combination of a broad set of resources had a comparative advantage in entrepreneurship.
This paper proposes a network formation model for explaining the stability of tribal societies. The model is supported by the idea that every two members of a tribe should have benefited from being connected to each other in order for the whole tribe to be stable. It also considers the constraints that the ecosystem brought to social interaction in pre-modern contexts. The model has three predictions. First, both homogeneous and heterogeneous tribes could have been stable regardless of technological development. Second, the social complexity of tribes was a function of technological development (having access to agriculture should have enabled the emergence of larger and more complex societies), interaction costs (if they were too low or too high, no complex society should have emerged), and environmental conditions (poor ecosystems should not have allowed the formation of complex societies). Finally, the model predicts that collapses of agricultural societies could not come from environmental pressures, but from high interaction costs. The predictions are consistent with some of the most relevant human history patterns.
Social Interactions and Contract Enforcement in the Postcolonial Arab World. Evidence from the Industrial Elite of Morocco, 1956-1982
joint with Romain Ferrali (Aix-Marseille School of Economics)
This paper studies the role of social interactions in contract enforcement in the independent Arab world. We use mixed methods to exploit an exceptional set of interviews with members of the industrial elite of Morocco during the import-substituting-industrialization (ISI). We find that the high risk of contractual breach characterized the business environment. In this context, business people were aware of the value of social ties. They did not use these ties to promote collective-punishment. Instead, they used ties to solve disputes through bilateral methods that did not threaten their existing connections. In addition, they used their network to screen the quality of potential business partners. This was strongly supported by the small size of the business community. Other enforcement mechanisms, such as legal methods, were seldom used because they threaten valuable personal ties. We find that business and social connections were more effective than connections with the State, kin-based, and ethno-geographic groups.
Finding a Job through Networks: How does Tie Strength Solve Information Problems during the Job Search Process
joint with Thibaud Deguilhem (University of Paris), Eric Quintane (Los Andes University), & Santiago Gómez (University of Heidelberg)
Contributing to research on the role of social relationships in labor inequality, this paper examines how job seekers’ use of their social networks affect the job search process. We build on information economics literature to identify two distinct information problems that job seekers face during the job search process: incomplete information and information asymmetry. We argue that each information problem is better solved by a different type of social relationship (along the Trust and Frequency dimensions), and that the fit between the type of relationship an individual uses and the type of information problem that dominates the job search process drives job search outcomes, such as salary increase and search duration. We test our theory in a unique dataset, representative of the working population in Bogota (Colombia), of 1,601 participants who recently found a new job through their social network. Our results support our theory. The alignment between the type of tie and the information problem to be solved affects individuals’ salary change and job search duration. We complement our quantitative analysis with 104 qualitative interviews to validate our interpretations and provide a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that underlie our results. We discuss the implications of our results for the literature on networks and job search.
Constitutions and Order
joint with Leopoldo Fergusson (Los Andes University), Santiago Torres (Los Andes University), and James Robinson (University of Chicago).
A fundamental political problem in society is how to structure institutions to maintain order
and reduce political violence in the face of self-interested behavior. In this paper, we propose a framework to think about why some societies ended up with different constitutional solutions to that problem. This framework predicts that opposition through violence (i.e. rebellion) could be accepted by the political system because the institutions are such that the incumbent cannot commit to meeting the participation constraint of the challenger by optimizing the details of the
constitution. We accompany the model with evidence from the constitutional debates in the U.S. and Colombia during their early Republican life. We show that the low political uncertainty of the Colombian context, its high inequality and policy uncertainty, and the huge impatience of its incumbents led its constitutional convention to embrace a legal formulation that tolerated political violence, while the opposite happened in the U.S.
Chapters in Books
In Felipe Valencia Caicedo (Ed.) Roots of Underdevelopment: A New Economic (and Political) History of Latin America and the Caribbean, forthcoming.
- Estabilidad financiera durante la banca libre en Antioquia. Medición del riesgo sistémico a través de las redes de propiedad.
In Carlos Dávila (Ed.) Empresas y empresarios en la historia de Colombia, forthcoming.
- Café y ciudad: El despegue urbano de Pereira. Joint with Sebastián Martínez.
In Sebastián Martínez & Adriana María Suárez Mayorga (Ed.) Repensando la Historia Urbana. Reflexiones Históricas en Torno a la Ciudad Colombiana, 2020. | Featured in Forbes
In Cristina Escobar & Milena Gómez Kopp (Ed.) El voto en el exterior: estudio comparativo de las elecciones colombianas legislativas y presidenciales. 2015
Tiempo & Economía, 2 (2), 79-103, 2015.
Sociedad y Economía, 30 (1), 305-334, 2016.
Economía & Región, 9 (2), 7-46, 2015.
Cuadernos de Economía, 34 (66), 507-544, 2015.
Economía & Región, 8 (2), 2014.
Ensayos de Economía, 45 (2), 2014.
Working Papers and Reports
Seminars and Conferences
Administrative and Editorial Positions
Forbes Magazine (Colombia)
Colombian Economic History Association (ACHE)
RePEc Biblio--Economic History
Economic History Society
New York University--Abu Dhabi
Los Andes University
Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia
Fundación Universitaria del Área Andina
I am one of the hosts of the New Books in Economic and Business History podcast. The podcast intends to introduce the work of the most influential economic historians in the world to a wide public via new media. In the context of an informal conversation, I talk with them about their careers and their work apropos of the publication of their latest book. Check out our most recent episodes:
A first edition of Le Traité d'Économie Pure by Maurice Allais (1943)
Several things make this volume a treasure:
A first edition of Expected utility hypotheses and the Allais Paradox by Maurice Allais and Ole Hagen (1979)
It was a gift from M. Allais to Jan Tinbergen. In the book dedication, Allais declares his admiration to Tinbergen, symbolizing a period in which the different branches of economics had a stronger connection.
Tinbergen was awarded the first Nobel Prize in Economics ten years before this dedication. He is considered one of the founding fathers of econometrics and was tremendously influential in Europe—in macroeconomics, mostly. Meanwhile, Allais—who will be awarded the Nobel Prize about ten years after this dedication—was a theoretician, also very influential in Europe, but mostly in microeconomics.
The complete works of Yasunari Kawabata (1899–1972)
Kawabata was the first Japanese author to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (1968). His novels and short stories are characterized by a spare, lyrical, subtly-shaded prose. Kawabata can be considered the father of a tradition that survives nowadays with authors such as Kenzaburo Oe and Yoko Ogawa.
My collection of Kawabata's works include a first English edition of The Lake (1974) and the compiled correspondence between Kawabata and Yukio Mishima.
A first edition of Ricardo's Economics by Michio Morishima (1989).
It was a gift from Morishima to Kenneth Arrow.
In my opinion, it is an emblem of the end of an era: the end of general-theory research in mainstream economics. Kenneth Arrow was the most influential economist of his generation and a symbol of the Walrasian general theory heritage. Morishima was a very important dude too (he was a professor at LSE, President of the Econometric Society...). “Ricardo's Economics”, together with "Marx's Economics" and "Walras' Economics", completed a sequence of works in which Morishima reinterpreted the main general-theory traditions.
A first edition of Almanaque La Ilustración (1880)
This was Wikipedia before Wikipedia.
Before the invention of the radio, it was quite difficult to know what was happening outside of one's village. This type of publications was the usual way to inform people on international reality. It had stories about geography, politics, culture, etc. It was beautifully illustrated by pieces based on travelers' narratives. An ideal example of how social sciences were deeply tied to literature and a recent past.
I have always been interested in entrepreneurship. I have personally undertaken two large entrepreneurship projects in my career.
The first one was a start-up called Revista Peso, which I co-founded with Juan José González. Revista Peso was one of the precursors in the independent digital media business in Colombia. We launched it in 2012 and, at its peak, we had thousands of readers per day. The company closed in 2014 as my commitments with the Ph.D. interfered with my role at the start-up.
My second entrepreneurial project came sometime after I finished my Ph.D. With a couple of partners, I created a small private investment fund called Al Mudhakira, which focuses on real estate and equity in emerging markets--Latin America and MENA specifically.
We manage Al Mudhakira in complete privacy. However, I am proud to share that it has contributed to make me a more skeptical and grounded thinker. To expose my ideas on society and business to the real world, bearing significant personal risk for doing it, is an instructive and humbling experience that constantly nourishes my perspective as a scholar.
This dimension of my life has also been helpful in my role as a media commentator, forcing me to be permanently well-informed of the political and economic conjuncture of my regions of specialty.